Wednesday, March 14, 2018

How to choose the right hydrocolloid or gum for a formulation?

When it comes to foods like bread, muffins and even cakes, hydrocolloids and gums might be considered unsung heroes. While there are practically too many to name, their uses and applications are quite targeted. Bakers need to know how to ask the appropriate questions while having the precise application in mind. And if they can find just the right combinations — either of gums and/or hydrocolloids or gums and other ingredients — all the better.

“Gums are key components of a formulation used to increase stability, create or modify texture of the finished product, or improve both texture and stability,” Throw in the effect on machineability, controlling moisture and freeze-thaw stability, and it’s a tall order.

“Hydrocolloids are somewhat underutilized in the baking industry,”

At their most basic function, hydrocolloids bind water. When that happens, they slow the moisture migration by forming a lattice that prevents its movement. The result? Better viscosity, improved texture and a more stable product. Face it: Gums and hydrocolloids keep it together.

Because getting it right depends on a variety of factors, formulators must think strategically before choosing a gum or combination for a specific baking application.
Making smart choices
The first step in selecting the proper gum or hydrocolloid involves understanding their basic functions.

“It’s all around the gelling or thickening — the binding water — perhaps lowering the water activity through that bound water,” 
 “As you’re binding water, you’re able to slow moisture migration, or slow the movement of water from in the product to out of it, which can help achieve a softer finished baked good.”

The bottom line is, certain gums perform better in certain applications because the product characteristics have specific qualities that one gum can relate to better than the next.

“Each gum has a set of functions and roles it plays in a finished product, and every gum is different,” “You have to make sure you’re playing to the strengths of the one you choose.”

To make the best choice, a baker should first consider the particular application; that will dictate the necessary functionality. Once that can be determined, the baker will have a clearer grasp of the type of gum or hydrocolloid to seek out.

For example, a finished cookie application might require a gum that functions quite differently from one used for a freeze-and-thaw or gluten-free alternative. A combination of xanthan and guar can help with ice crystal formation.

“I’ve used those in cookie dough puck applications to lower water activity,”  “They work well for anything frozen and thawed.”

Comprehending the synergies between various gums goes a long way in choosing which ones to use together.

“One gum might work to a certain amount, and then it kind of plateaus,”  “Combining the right two together can synergistically create a better product than one alone at a higher percentage.”

It’s also important to stay cognizant of how gums interact with other ingredients.

“Some hydrocolloids don’t get along with milk or the amino acids found in proteins,”

One vital ingredient to consider is water. Don’t overlook its relationship with the gums.

“Water is critical when it comes to utilizing hydrocolloids in baked goods,” “If you’re looking to add hydrocolloids into a balanced formulation that did not previously contain any gums, it’s important to add at least 5 to 10 parts additional water for every part of gum added. This will ensure the gum is properly hydrated.”

Of course, the exact amount will vary depending on the specific application.

“If additional water is not included, there could be a negative effect on the finished product,” Additionally, the water content of ingredients such as eggs and butter must be considered.

The flour-gum relationship is another that formulators must remember.

“Sometimes you need to adjust your flour a bit,”  “You may go down a little in flour as you’re going up on gums.”

Additionally, keep in mind the role water plays in this little love triangle.

“Not properly hydrating the flour will cause issues, so you need to have enough water for the gum to bind to and have enough that you’re hydrating the flour,”

In cookie applications, an imbalanced ratio can affect the diameter and height of the finished cookie.

“It’s important for us to have an understanding of your formulation,”  “Discuss any issues you may have regarding the current formulation and the targets for the future. That gives us the full picture to help select the proper hydrocolloid to fit that system.”
Minding the process
It’s not just the formula that needs consideration. The overall process comes into play, too.

“Processing is very important to the hydrocolloid functionality,”  “Parameters such as mixing, proof time, bake time and temperature can all affect which gum solution will be the best fit.”

Consider yeast-raised foods.

“In these, certain hydrocolloids can be quite effective at increasing the volume of baked goods.”  “In particular, ionic hydrocolloids are effective at improving volume, and that can be quite useful in processing clean label formulations.”

“The mixers you have in the plant are different from the ones in the lab, so it may mix differently,” advising that some minor water adjustments might be necessary when scaling up.

Batter viscosity is also a critical factor in processing.

“A commercial cake producer requires a consistent batter viscosity, which is critical to product quality and ease of manufacturing,” “A batter that is too thin can result in an inconsistent cake crumb, whereas a batter that is too thick is more difficult to handle in terms of pumping and depositing.”

It is suggested that cellulose gum achieves the right batter consistency on its own; otherwise, combinations such as xanthan and guar can help tolerate process fluctuations like temperature or mixing changes.

In commercial baking, it’s not so much the process itself but how the gum or hydrocolloid is treated, Ms. Stubbs said. It must be introduced at the proper time and with the proper hydration to avoid undesirable characteristics.

“Hydrocolloids can clump very easily,”

Bakers should not only think about how the process can affect hydrocolloids but also what they can bring to the process.

“Hydrocolloids help enhance the flexibility of tortillas and flatbreads, which is critical for those products,”

Functioning inside and out
It’s not just about what gums do for the product but also what can go on the outside of the package, too.

“In addition to moisture control and added machinability and flexibility, gums can also serve as sources of fiber, especially soluble fiber,”

In all, when they’re doing their job right (and playing nice with one another), gums and hydrocolloids’ gelling and thickening properties can modify texture and provide necessary stability for commercial baked foods.